ZeroAvia
Fresh Air

Bill Gates Invests in Hydrogen-Powered Airplane Startup

byDan Robitzski
12. 16. 20
ZeroAvia

Gates is betting big on air travel powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Taking Off

Hydrogen-powered plane startup ZeroAvia just added some heavy hitters to its roster of financial backers.

The company closed its Series A funding round, in which investors including Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund gave a total of $21.4 million, Bloomberg reports. In addition, the U.K. government invested $16.6 million — all money that the company says will go toward finally making hydrogen fuel cells a viable replacement for fossil fuels.

Buckle Up

Aside from improving its fuel systems, the company’s goal with the money is to develop a 19-seat passenger plane powered by hydrogen-electric engines, according to Bloomberg.

While it would be a radical shift from today’s aviation industry, it’s not impossible — a ZeroAvia fuel cell powered a plane during a successful test flight in September. ZeroAvia hopes to sell those fuel cells to other airlines in 2023 while continuing to make them more powerful.

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Clear Skies

It will be many years before hydrogen planes could entirely replace fuel-burning ones. That test flight in September entailed little more than an aerial loop around an airport, and ZeroAvia doesn’t expect to reach a flight range of 1,000 miles — still not nearly enough to cross the Atlantic Ocean — until 2030, Bloomberg reports.

But as hydrogen fuel improves, it could do the world a lot of good. In 2019, the aviation industry emitted over a billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, according to Bloomberg. That’s a major source of pollution that hydrogen power could help make disappear.

READ MORE: Gates and Bezos Funds Back Hydrogen-Powered Plane Startup [Bloomberg]

More on hydrogen planes: Researchers Successfully Test Hydrogen-Powered Passenger Plane

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